- FRANCE AND BLACK FOREST PART 1 -

REIMS PART 1

LINKS to pages in the France and Black Forest site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

     1 : Journey to Kork
     2 : Reims
     3 : Metz
     4 : Kork
     5 : Triberg

     6 : Donaueschingen
     7 : Staufen
     8 : Titisee
     9 : Freiburg
    10 : Journey from Kork

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Reims (also spelled Rheims), a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, lies 129 km (80 mi) east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire.

Reims played a prominent ceremonial role in French monarchical history as the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France.

Some sources regard Reims as the effective capital of the province of Champagne, given its size as by far the largest city in the region. The 2008 census recorded 188,078 inhabitants in the city of Reims proper (the commune), and 291,735 inhabitants in the metropolitan area (aire urbaine).

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The railway station at Reims (below) and the Ibis Hotel, situated opposite the station, where our group stayed for one night (right).



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An efficient transport system serves the population of Reims.


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A short walk to the centre of the city eventually leading to the cathedral.

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Before the Roman conquest of northern Gaul, Reims, founded circa 80 BC served as the capital of the tribe of the Remi — whose name the town would subsequently echo. In the course of Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul (58-51 BC), the Remi allied themselves with the Romans, and by their fidelity throughout the various Gallic insurrections secured the special favour of the imperial power.

Christianity had become established in the city by 260, at which period Saint Sixtus of Reims founded the Reims bishopric. The consul Jovinus, an influential supporter of the new faith, repelled the Alamanni who invaded Champagne in 336; but the Vandals captured the city in 406 and slew Bishop Nicasius; and in 451 Attila the Hun put Reims to fire and sword.

In 496 - ten years after Clovis, King of the Salian Franks, won his victory at Soissons (486) - Remigius, the bishop of Reims, baptized him using the oil of the sacred phial, purportedly brought from heaven by a dove for the baptism of Clovis and subsequently preserved in the Abbey of Saint-Remi.

For centuries the events at the crowning of Clovis I became a symbol used by the monarchy to claim the divine right to rule.

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Excavations have shown that the present cathedral occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c.400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century.

On July 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218 suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors: the lengthening of the nave was presumably to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations.

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The towers, 81 metres tall (approx. 267 ft), were originally designed to rise to 120 metres (approximately 394 ft). The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named 'Charlotte' by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg (about 11 tons).

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures.

The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary in place of the usual sculptured tympanum.
The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a beautiful modern rose window with the prophets and apostles.

Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof.

Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber belltower (above) that is 18 metres (about 59 feet) tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.



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       The famous "Smiling Angel" (left)



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Reconstruction work on the exterior of the cathedral continues to this day...........



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From Wikipedia with acknowledgement :
"German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace.

"Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since."

The Cathedral of Reims burns by G. Fraipont (1915)

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"The Cathedral of Notre Dame at Rheims was one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The framework was still standing when the Germans began their drive in 1918.   In this instance shells burst on the cathedral before the eyes of many spectators."

Caption dated 20 September 1914 reproduced in "Collier's New Photographic History of the World's War" (1919), page 86 (above).

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